Make Him Known Among the Nations

This morning, I had the privilege of leading an epic worship time at Faith Community Church. Epic in the way young people use that word these days, but also epic in theological and prophetic scope.

Isaiah 12:4 says this:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name
Make known among the nations what he has done
And proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things
Let this be known to all the world.

Too often, we practise a self-serving worship: a worship that, to be sure, focuses on God but then asks: what can God do for me in return? At the very least, we want to end our worship time feeling good. There’s nothing seriously wrong with that, because God blesses us as we bless Him. As Tom Inglis once said, worship is something God cannot give Himself. When we give God that which He cannot give Himself, He gives us what we cannot give ourselves.

But in Isaiah’s song, what starts as a personal act – of thanksgiving – must also end in proclamation: of declaring God’s name among the nations.

This month is Missions Month at FCC and today specifically, we were going to pray for the nations. I wanted to make sure that our worship this morning wouldn’t be “run of the mill” but that it would take our focus beyond our church and to the nations of the earth. I prayed that perhaps even in the midst of worship, God would awaken mission callings in the lives of His people.

John Piper says:

Worship … is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.

So I challenged our team to play and sing prophetically; that our worship this morning would be a prophetic act of declaring God’s fame amongst people groups who wouldn’t know how, but we would stand in their place nevertheless in prophetic prefigurement of that day when those groups will stand before the throne of God in worship.

We were also privileged to have our missionary to East Timor join us on the worship team. I had asked if he could translate the chorus of one of the songs into Tetun (the native language of East Timor) and then I thought it would be even more powerful if he sang it on stage. As I told the team yesterday, there are two types of missionaries: program missionaries and presence missionaries. Program missionaries go to a people group to implement a program, e.g. a program of relief, a program of education or even a program of evangelism. Presence missionaries prayerfully and sensitively mediate the presence of God in the field. They don’t necessary go with an agenda, but they go in God’s Spirit and power. My brother was a presence missionary, a worshipping missionary.

Our set culminated in singing “How Great is Our God (World Edition)”, scripted in the languages of most of the mission fields targeted by FCC. Here are the lyrics:

The splendour of the King
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
Let all the earth rejoice

He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God
Sing with me “How great is our God”
All will see how great
How great is our God

Chorus (Noongar)
Borun Maarman Yira
Kwiyalakinda Borun Maarman Yira
Moort ginaning Borun borun
Maarman Yira

Verse 1 (Tagalog)
Walang hanggang Hari
Aming tinatangi
Lahat ay magpuri
Lahat ay magpuri

Verse 2 (Bahasa)
Terang-Nya bersinar
Kegelapan t’lah sirna
Sujudlah pada-Nya
Sujudlah pada-Nya

Chorus: Chinese
我神真偉大, (wo shen zhen wei da)
歌頌祢聖名, (ge shou ni shen ming)
真偉大, (zhen wei da)
全地都看見, (quan di dou kan jian)
我神真偉大。(wo shen zhen wei da)

Chorus: Japanese
Nante idai na
Warera no Shu arata wa
Zenchi wa shiru
Idai na Kami

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Chorus: Tetun
Jesus Nia boot loos
Kanta ho hau  Nia boot loos
Hotu sei hare Jesus
Nia boot loos

BRIDGE
Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing, how great is our God

Here’s the setlist:

// We Speak to Nations (A)
// You are Good (Houghton) (A)
// Jesus Son of God (A)
// Prayer for the Nations by David Yow
// How Great is Our God (World Edition) (A)

Here’s the recording of this morning’s worship: 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the amazing servants on Team 3 for facilitating such a significant time of worship this morning. May God continue to lift up our eyes to see the fields that are white unto harvest!

One of the Craziest Weekends Ever

I would have to describe it as one of the craziest weekends ever.

It began with an 8 am start for the Asian worship session of Converge 2012, kicking off an entire day of non-stop worship for the city of Perth with different teams coming in to lead worship at Wesley Church, right in the heart of the city.

It was a wake-up call for the city of Perth, probably because Clement played his drums ultra loud and Darren pumped up his amp. The acoustics of Wesley Church probably amplified everything by a factor of 4. But it’s a sound of praise that needed to be heard in the city.

Even though there was probably only about 40 or so people attending, there was a real sense of the presence of God as we worshipped. The band (consisting of worshippers and musicians from different churches) just flowed together beautifully, like we had played together for years instead of having only had a couple of rehearsals beforehand. It was an inexplicable synergy between the team members, all of whom are friends and worshippers I deeply admire.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but the music was also being pumped out through external speakers. We were filling the streets of the city of Perth with the praises of God!

After an extended time of free worship, we began to pray (as it was Pentecost) for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all the different churches represented by the people who were in attendance. Clem started prophesying on the drums, which I interpreted as the sound of breakthrough for our churches – that God would bring fresh anointing, strength, vision and growth.

We ended with the prophetic song “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble”. I really sensed that spiritual mountains were shaken that morning. I sensed that the darkness over the city was trembling because the saints had joined in one song. The darkness was trembling because all the streams were flowing as one river: the Catholics, Charismatics, Uniting Church, Presbyterians and Anglicans. The brokenness of the church was being washed away.

After that session, quite a number of people came up to me to say that they thought something quite special happened that morning. As Pastor Yoy describes it, heaven and earth had converged.

Clem was especially blessed. It was his birthday and the Lord marked him with favour. You will see in the picture above that as we were praying, the cross at Wesley cast a shadow across his back. What a picture (thanks to Darren!).

After the session, we gathered outside the church to celebrate Clem’s birthday and Wendy Yapp had us wrap the week’s knitting (which was symbolic of the knitting together of prayer) around us and then around the building. The knitting went about half way around the church. Here’s a picture of the band “knit together”:

Here are some photos of some of us spreading the knitting around the church:

After that, the sound of war cries and congas filled the church as the African team led by Arlene Gregory began to worship. It was vibrant in colour, sound and spirit.

We came back in the evening for the last session of the Day of Worship called “Hear the Nations Worship”. During the session, we wove into our worship elements of Gospel-style (led by Stephanie Truscott), Messianic (led by Kathy Susnjar) and African worship (led by Arlene), declaring the words of Revelation 5 that every tongue, tribe and nation will be represented before the throne of God. We finished the evening singing How Great is Our God in English, Indonesian, Chinese, Tagalog and Zulu.

Here is a picture we took at the end of the evening:

We were told later that tens of people were coming into the church throughout the evening, drawn to the sound of praise!

After that night, I was exhausted.

But the weekend was not over yet. As I was attending the Friday night session of Converge, Patrick Chen of Zion Praise Harvest invited me to lead a worship slot during the Global Day of Prayer (on Pentecost Sunday), which his church was hosting. He was bringing together 35 to 40 different churches and ministries to participate. I was told to pick a song, get to the service half an hour earlier to do a sound check and… that was it. Mentally, I couldn’t picture it.

So I just chose the song “Come Holy Spirit”, a song I love and I thought captured the Pentecost theme.

When I got to the meeting this afternoon, I was given a runsheet that had planned the meeting (incorporating the 35 odd ministries) right down to the minute. Zion’s administration and planning skills are second to none.

But it was amazing how God orchestrated unity even though I came into the picture quite late in the piece. It just so happened that I was given the slot just before the Transformation session, the opening Scripture passage of which was Luke 4 (“the Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me”). The song I had chosen (quite in isolation of the planning) fit perfectly. I was amazed at how God brought unity even in the programming!

So it’s been an amazing, action-packed weekend.

When I went to Global Day of Prayer, I was asked “what ministry do you represent?” It seemed that everyone had come representing a church, intercessory ministry, marketplace ministry or some other organisation. I didn’t really know what to say. I couldn’t say I was representing my church because I wasn’t even part of the church worship team.

In the end, I just left it as “Lester Ong”.

As we were preparing for Converge, I had said to the different worship teams that we shouldn’t see ourselves as working towards the end of Converge; rather, we should see Converge as a time for the birthing of new destinies. And I think that’s probably where God is leading me. This Converge weekend has been the beginning of something. There is not yet any designation for it. It doesn’t have a cool ministry name, logo or constitution. It is the beginning of worshippers gathering together to lift up the name of Jesus in the city of Perth and for no other name. I can’t wait to see what that will look like.

Nations Worship

Converge 2012 is going to culminate in an evening of “Nations Worship”. I was just thinking about what that night might look like. Could it look like this?

Except of course, it would be representative of the church of Perth with worship leaders and singers from the Indigenous church, Korean church, African church, Indonesian church and Asian church. It would be a prophetic declaration of praise that prefigures the day when every tongue, tribe and nation will gather around the throne of God in worship!